Aug 01

The Church Just Did for Movements What She Did for Religious in 1978, Only Better

Church-Did-for-Movements-artThe Church does not rush to judgement, but reflects and ponders clearly to ascertain what is God’s will. This can take years, even decades. Vatican II renewed many aspects of Catholic life: the sacramental character of a bishop’s consecration, the lay vocation to holiness, the religious life, and the structure of the Church. All of these have brought about a need for further reflection on the relationship between different branches within the Church. In 1978, the Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes published Mutuae Relationes, which gave norms for the relationship between bishops and religious in the Church.

On June 14, 2016, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published similar norms for other charismatic elements within the Church, notably movements and new communities, under the title Iuvenescit Ecclesia. (In this essay, “charismatic” will refer to movements of the spirit in general, not specifically to the Charismatic movement.) My intention here is to explore the similarities and differences between the two documents. When Iuvenescit Ecclesia was first announced, many speculated that it would simply update Mutuae Relationes, as Pope Francis had suggested was needed1; however,Iuvenescit Ecclesia applies rules similar to those found in the first document to entirely new types of groups.

Both documents begin with a section on doctrine, and then move to a section on practical application. I will review each of the two sections in parallel, and then talk about some applications of how to facilitate synergy between religious communities or movements, and dioceses or parishes.

Read the rest on Homiletic & Pastoral Review.

Jul 10

Religious Liberty: an American Innovation and Tradition

flag-300x111If you’ve grown up in the United States in the 20th or 21st century, you might miss how revolutionary the religious liberty in the Constitution is. Until 1791, no national government in human history had officially declared that there was no established religion and people were free to practice whatever religion, and almost every state had some official or semi-official religion. Even the French Revolution, at about the same time, established an official religion of reason rather than permit religious freedom.

What brought this about? First, many of the original 13 Colonies were founded by groups in England who practiced a religion other than state-sponsored Anglicanism in Great Britain. The British government wouldn’t tolerate them at home but would let them live far away if their religion was that important. Second, Christianity is quite unique among world religions in that it is based on personal belief not corporate belonging. From the beginning, Christians lived in opposition to the official religion. Other groups would be fine under Roman rule because Romans would allow you to worship your god so long as you also worshiped their god – a fine proposition for a polytheist but not a Christian. Third, enlightenment philosophy, despite his defects in other areas, was able to see the religious liberty in a way that wasn’t previously clear.

Read the rest on Regnum Christi Live.

Jul 07

When Pope Francis goes off the cuff, think Latin America

Several times, Pope Francis has said things that have really shocked a number of North American Catholics.  Yet if we put the comments in the context of Catholicism in other countries, often we’ll be shocked by the situation in those countries, not by the pope.

Pope Francis is Argentinian and, save a few years of study in Europe, he’s spent his entire life in the Latin American Church. In many respects, the Church in Latin America is in a very different position from the North American Church, both internally and with respect to regional cultural perspectives.

I spent three years studying in Rome in a college where the majority of the religious brothers were from Latin America, and I began to realize how different some of our cultural and ecclesial assumptions are.

I remember talking to a priest from Brazil, for instance, about how in the U.S. many religious communities do philosophy before novitiate. He was shocked because he was certain that most taking philosophy, for those communities, would be cheating the system to get a free education. In the U.S., I don’t think this is an issue, because there are easier ways to get a college degree than faking a religious vocation for four years.

Read the rest on Crux.

Jun 23

12 Students Reveal What It’s Like Being Catholic in School These Days

Catholic School StudentsSchools are where the next generation is formed.

Sometimes, negative things happen there but there is so much positive going on as well. I wanted to know how being Catholic positively affected students’ lives, so I asked them.

I offered a free student planner to the best response to a simple question: “What is different about you at school because you are Catholic?”

Here are the best 12 responses I got from high school and college students – just the age we often lose hope – and I’ll reveal who won at the end.

“My Catholic faith is the reason I am still in college. After wanting to give up numerous times and having gone down a wrong path in the past, my faith is the reason I have persevered so far, and why I feel at peace about the future.”

Dominique C., College Senior

Read the other 11 on ChurchPOP.

Jun 22

Amoris Laetitia Study Guide

I produced a study guide for Amoris Laetitia for I have questions for every chapter so an ordinary Catholic in the pew can discover what Francis wants to teach us all. I also made notes where needed to avoid misunderstanding. You can read it there. If you want a teaser, here are the first paragraphs:

Amoris-Laetitia-Study-Guide-coverAs a post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia is supposed to summarize the synods of the previous two years and give the Pope’s recommendations drawn from them. These two synods have been on the family so Amoris Laetitia is a summary of what the Church should do to help the family. As such, Francis mixes analysis of the current situation, theological reflections on marriage and the family, and recommendations going forward.

The first sentence sets the tone for the whole document: “The Joy of Love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church.” Francis has decided to focus principally on the positive aspects and even when he goes into the negative aspects he prefers to focus on the exceptions over coming down hard and fast with lots of rules.

There has been a lot of confusion in the media regarding a few comments made in this document while the rest of it has been forgotten. This guide will mention those items and clarify them but consciously try to focus on the positive message that Pope Francis wants to get across over discussions of those controversies.

Read the rest on

Jun 16

Risen: a Movie Ruined by Trying to Be a Christian Movie More Than Trying to Be a Good Movie

Risen[Spoiler alerts: I give away the plot]

I don’t write movie reviews because I simply don’t watch that many movies. Several people had told me that Risen was a great movie so I found time to watch it a few days ago. I really liked the first two thirds of the movie as it really shows the struggles of a soldier who is slowly coming to believe that the Resurrection might have really happened rather than the official story that the body was stolen.

About two-thirds of the way through, there is an epic climactic scene where the soldier recognizes the risen Lord is the same person that he saw crucified before. This climactic scene shows the definitive choice of the soldier. As a literary and artistic work, it would have been great to and with Jesus calling his name and maybe one 30-second scene for a dénouement, having a wide variety of choices such as the soldier walking with Jesus, the soldier preaching Jesus, the soldier’s martyrdom, or the soldier in a expressing his choice to another soldier.

Instead, the movie decides to write this soldier awkwardly into Jesus’ appearance in Galilee and his Ascension, broken by a nonsensical and cheesy scene where the Roman authorities send 100 men to search for them, they trace them to a hilltop, and one actually finds him but he is prevented from arresting them.

This reminds me a lot of the Gospel of Mark. The original version probably ended with the centurion saying “Truly, this man was the son of God.” (Mark 15:39) The rest of Mark tries to complete the story by adding information from other places in the New Testament. This addition helps complete the story but takes the oomph out of this statement which Mark left as declarative statement intending to lead the reader to say the same. (Note: I accept the canonical version of Mark but 15:40 onward is most likely done later to simply fill out the story.)

Now the additional information completes the Christian story but in both cases the literary unity of the work is compromised by a desire to get the whole story in. Christians want the completion of the Jesus story in the movie, so Risen gives it to them. One of the previews shown before Risen brings this out because they tell the whole story in the preview rather than leave you in suspense. Movies that are good literary works tell an engaging story but movies that try to be Christian movies first make sure the story is perfect and clean and then don’t worry about how they tell it. Why? Their audience who wants Christian movies doesn’t really care. Let me tell you I care and that’s why I be more discerning to pick up a movie just because it is a “Christian movie.”

Jun 14

Overview of ‘Iuvenescit Ecclesia,’ on the bishops and the movements


I had my first article published on Crux today. Here’s the first lines; read the rest there.

Throughout the history of the Church, God has bestowed gifts upon individuals for the benefit of all. Some of these are through the sacrament of orders and some are charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit independent of the sacrament of orders. These two types of gifts sometimes find themselves in opposition, but Iuvenescit Ecclesia points out how they should work together.

Iuvenescit Ecclesia builds on existing documents. It finds inspiration in several documents on the mission of the Church in the world, notably Lumen Gentium of Vatican II and Francis’s Evangelii Gauidium. Since it deals primarily with charisms of the laity, it harkens back to Vatican II’s Apostolican Actuositatem and John Paul II’s Christifideles Laici.

Finally, it is an expansion of Mutuae Relationes, which dealt with similar themes but between religious and bishops rather than movements and new communities.

To keep the Vatican’s voice above my own, I will summarize mainly with direct quotations as I go through the 5 chapters.

Keep reading on Crux…


Jun 10

S2S: Free Catholic Student Planner Giveaway

I met the young man who invented the Catholic Planner at a media conference in Brooklyn last month. He has a new project of making a student version he calls S2S for Sinner to Saint. I think it really gets at the core of how to be Catholic as a student. It combines the practical aspects like a timetable and daily planning with saint quotes, Sunday Gospels and reminders to pray.

He gave me one and I’m now giving it away free. Enter below by entering in 50 words or less one way being Catholic affects what you do at school or how you do things at school. I’ll pick one winner (unless I get more copies of S2S).

If you don’t win, you can check out Victor’s kickstarter and buy one that way. His page also has a 4 minute video explaining it. (I really like his video, and he ends with one of my top-10 all time quotes that John Paul II told young people at World Youth Day 2000.

Here are pictures of my copy.

S2S 1             S2S 2

S2S 3

S2S 4

Entry Form:

Sorry the date for entries has passed. Maybe I’ll give away something else soon.


  1. I will decide on a winner on June 17, 2016 based on entries received by midnight June 16.
  2. By entering you give me permission to publish your comments. (I will only put a first name and last initial to protect privacy.)
  3. I’m only opening this to students from grades 1-12 or those registered in an undergraduate university for the fall, and only to those in the USA  or Canada (I’m paying postage out of my pocket). My decision of a winner is final and cannot be appealed even though it is likely subjective.

Jun 09

The 9 Non-Negotiables


For years, Catholic Answers has produced a helpful voters’ guide on the five non-negotiable moral issues for Catholics. It is good but in the years since it was first produced, four more issues have come up that I think are worth adding to the list of non-negotiable moral issues. I will explain both what these issues are and why we need to add them. I will also mention a few issues that are important but negotiable.

First, the established five non-negotiable issues:

  1. Abortion
  2. Euthanasia
  3. Embryonic Stem-Cell Research.
  4. Human Cloning.
  5. Homosexual marriage.

Now, these four need to be added from my perspective.


The Catechism teaches in 2297, “Torture… is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity.” It is intrinsically evil and can never be done or condoned. It doesn’t matter if the person is the most horrid criminal, a mass-murderer or a child-molester, they still have inviolable human dignity. If we dehumanize criminals, we dehumanize all people.

I have already shown why waterboarding is torture and some are proposing even more severe forms of torture….

Read the rest at Catholic Stand.

May 31

Transgender Bathrooms: Both Sides Miss the Other Side’s Argument

Transgender Bathrooms: Both Sides Miss the Other Side’s Argument

In recent months there has been a lot of debate about transgender individuals using the bathroom opposite their birth sex. Both sides have legitimate arguments and in an effort to support their own position at all costs, neither side seems to be listening to the other side. Let’s examine both sides, how they’re misunderstood and how we might make a better law than either side proposes.

Those opposing the possibility of transgender individuals switching bathrooms often mention the idea that creeps could take advantage of this law to get into the opposite bathroom and spy on people for their own sexual gratification. The other side hears this and complains that all trans people are being called creeps… but that isn’t the point at all! The point is that without some clear regulation on who’s trans, such laws leave it open for non-trans people to fake being trans for reasons that we all realize are improper.

Those arguing for the ability of transgender individuals to access the opposite restroom, point out the most convincing trans individuals, usually those who have undergone hormone therapy and/or surgery. If you look at these individuals, I doubt many of us would class them in their birth sex, and honestly most of us would be creeped out if they showed up in a bathroom for that sex. The other side kind of ignores these significant physiological changes that have been artificially done and insists on natural biological sex.

Even though I realize it is impossible to change one’s ontological sex, I see a certain truth about making bathrooms based on a kind of physiological sex as kind be seen because bathrooms are based on function of waste-excreting organs not the reality of ontological sex.

Currently the options in public discourse seem to be either anyone in any bathroom because they say so, or basing in on birth certificates. I think there are 2 better options. We could leave it was the status quo until recently where the facility manager was left the freedom to exercise prudence in who let into each bathroom – this involves not just trans individuals but caregivers with children or disabled adults. We could also have some possibility of changing the sex on your driver’s license, but only after hormones and/or therapy, and base it on that. I prefer the former as I assume 99.99% of people will be rational to distinguish between a legitimate trans individual and a creep trying to get into the other bathroom. I refer here to adult bathrooms: since gender dysphoria (or gender identity disorder) in kids has over an 80% remission rate, we should try to help young people overcome this rather than encourage them on this path; adults who’ve had GD (or GID) for a period of time, on the other hand have a very low remission rate so we assume this is their permanent status.

May 18

Discussion vs. Ear-Piercing Debate Online

Social Media is a crazy place for deabate

Twitter can be a harsh place. I get responses daily to my tweets that might make your hair rise on end. Here’s the most negative tweets – unfiltered – I got in a random week (April 21-28, simply the week before I wrote this intro):

  • “As the False Prophet, he [Pope Francis] will be one of the greatest deceivers in human history.”
  • “No matter how u twist & turn & contort the English language there are no rational religious beliefs.”
  • “Councils (Trent) were of Holy Spirit? Was the torturing & murder of 75 million people of Chirst?”
  • “The real problem is that JEWS decide which media personalities get fired for making the “wrong” statements.”
  • “Apparently, your collar doesn’t make you bright.”
  • “Mr. Pontifex takes a breath of fresh air, awaiting the arrival of his Muslim masters.”
  • “Isn’t she [Elizabeth II on her 90th birthday] the queen of freemasonry?… She’s had time to convert, hopefully b4 she dies.”
  • “and the church suddenly has an interest in science? Figures, it’d be pseudo science #propaganda”
  • “Allah The Most Gracious The Most Merciful The Only One True God Has Saved Jesus Christ.”
  • “Another shameless photo op” [referring to Francis hearing confessions in St Peter’s Square]
  • “I am sorry the education system has failed you so thoroughly.”
  • “#ProLife activists like @FrMatthewLC will be happy. Vote for #Trump! Back to middle age in a few months.”
  • “that could only have been written by someone who isn’t in a loving relationship where you give yourself completely lovingly.”

I’m sure many of you have noticed how online there tends to be more ear-piercing debate then honest and thoughtful discussion. People even made jokes about the YouTube comments section as a place to find the lowest dregs of humanity. Instead of narrowly talking about Twitter or YouTube, I want to address online discussions in general. I want to look at the philosophy that divides us, how technology enables negativity and yelling, and a few ways we can respond.

Read more on Catholic Stand…

May 02

Clearing Our Heart for Love by Remembering God’s Mercy

Remembering God's MercyRemembering God’s Mercy is one of those rare books that combines personal testimony, theological insight, sound psychology, and prayerfulness all-in-one. Along with reading, I used this book for meditation for a week or two. It’s an amazing book that has to be comprehended as by whole chapters and not by lines. When I read a book, I often look for “pull quotes” I can use in preaching or post online, and despite being excellent, this book doesn’t specialize in that. Instead there’s a reflection over the course of four or five pages that awakens you to some new light but that light can’t be summarized in one line.

Dawn is a former reporter for several rock and roll publications and, obviously, a convert. She has suffered immensely in her life both from others – including childhood sexual abuse – and from her own sexual liaisons; so, I think her voice is particularly good for reaching those in our society who are hurting. Doctor Eden – okay, she got her doctorate just after writing this book – had previously written a book on healing from sexual abuse but expanded this to a much wider healing in this book, focusing on healing our memories. Dawn points us to go back to our memories before we were hurt and this led me to ask when you talk what to do if someone has a disability or a pain from birth so they have no memories prior to their suffering. I hope she writes a book on that in the future. Nonetheless, her current book is helpful all who’ve suffered, even for those of us who have not suffered major trauma in our life.

She begins by acknowledging the need people have both of psychological and spiritual help: “There is been a growing recognition in recent years that those of us who suffer the effect of painful memories need more than just psychological help. Therapy can help us cope, but if you’re true to break free from the grip of past pain, we need spiritual help.” (ix) Then she brings out how Pope Francis speaks of prayer as memory: “Prayer for me is always a prayer full of memory, of recollection, even the memory of my own history…” (4) Her reflections throughout the book follow up on those lines.

Her vision is very incarnational, based on the sacraments which is noteworthy which describes Eucharist and confession. “I do not only bring my soul to encounter Jesus in the Eucharist; I bring my body as well.” (14) “The sacrament of reconciliation helps me deal with the effects of sin in all its facets where my own sincere concern, sacramental confession does more than erase them. It leads me to examine where my sinful impulses are coming from and gives me the grace to fight those impulses when they reappear.” (108) She also shows this incarnational view when talking about how Pope Francis “travels in patience.”

There are other points one could touch on but those stood out to me. If you have suffered – and we all have – I would recommend this book. It helps us reflect on our own experience so that we don’t deny it but live properly once we acknowledge it.

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